Thursday, August 26, 2010

Five Things Airlines Don't Want You to Know

From AOL Travel

The average airline passenger knows little about the tangles of procedure, technology and bureaucracy involved in the daily operations of a commercial airline. And for the most part, ignorance is bliss. After all, if getting from point A to point B as safely as possible is your main concern, you can rest assured that the U.S. commercial aviation system is among the safest in the world (your chances of dying in an airplane crash in the U.S. is calculated to be one in 13 million). But when it comes to the air you breathe onboard, the coffee you drink and the potentially very tired pilots flying your plane, there are some things the airlines prefer to keep to themselves.

Your captain and crew are often exhausted
Along with inadequate training, pilot fatigue was a factor during the investigation of the catastrophic Buffalo, N.Y., accident in February 2009, when a Continental Connection flight operated by Colgan Air crashed, killing all 49 people onboard and one on the ground. Pilots and crew will tell you that reporting to work after limited sleep and long on-duty hours is an all too common occurrence in the airline industry.

"The issue of flying tired is probably the largest threat to safety that occurs in the industry," says a captain for a major U.S. airline, who wishes to remain anonymous. "A lot of fatigue occurs after working a 14-plus hour day, followed by eight hours of 'rest' that includes transportation to and from the hotel, eating, sleeping, showering and having breakfast the next morning. It actually equates to about five hours of sleep, on a good night."

Under current FAA rules, pilots can be scheduled to be on duty for up to 16 hours, eight of which can be flying hours. "On many occasions, I have had a 14-hour day with eight hours 'rest', followed by another 14- or 15-hour day," says the captain.

Another longtime pilot for a U.S. carrier concurs, recalling a recent hop from the Caribbean to New York that involved a delay that led to him being on duty for 15.5 hours that day. "I had literally less than eight hours at the hotel [at the flight's destination] because it's 25 minutes there and 25 minutes back ... we were pretty well exhausted that whole next day."

As for the passengers on his plane, how many of them would have thought twice about boarding if they had known how tired their pilot was?

Your coffee might be made from bacteria-ridden water
Coffee and tea served in-flight are made from water pumped into the airplane's holding tanks by municipal sources at airports around the country. In effect, water from many different cities and sources mixes together in these tanks as the planes refill upon landing at new airports. Most passengers are unaware that the water used to make their coffee (even that highly touted Starbucks brew) is the same stuff that comes out of the lavatory sinks.

According to its website, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for "safe drinking water, both from your tap and on airplanes." But a 2004 survey by the EPA found many aircraft water systems out of compliance with national primary drinking water regulations designed to apply to traditional stationary water systems.

Because airlines fly to various destinations and are allowed to board water where they land, variations exist in maintenance of the equipment used to deliver the water to the plane (carts, hoses, trucks). And airlines claim that compliance with the EPA's rules for traditional water systems is not feasible. When the EPA tested water from the galleys and lavatories in 327 aircrafts, 15 percent tested positive for total coliform bacteria. And while coliform itself is not indicative of a health risk, its presence in drinking water "indicates that other disease-causing organisms may be present in the water system," according to the EPA.

"The EPA considers this [the 15 percent positive result] to be a high percentage of positive samples," it says on its website and advises passengers with compromised immune systems to opt for canned or bottled beverages when flying.

In 2002, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal tested 14 commercial flights and found bacteria levels tens and sometimes hundreds of times in excess of government limits. What was in those water samples? Such unsavory specimens as salmonella and tiny insect eggs. Gulp.

A new Aircraft Drinking Water Rule was signed in 2009 by the EPA to ensure safe and reliable drinking water for passengers and crew. It goes into effect in 2011. But how concerned should you be in the meantime?

Says one flight attendant about galley water: "I know it tastes funny because the water tank is filled at each station, meaning water from different cities gets mixed together. And I know a lot of people won't drink it. I also know a ton of flight attendants who've been drinking it for years. Me? No thank you. I'll take a diet soda if we've run out of [bottled] water."

Chemicals from the engine can make their way into cabin air
Who hasn't flinched, imagining all the germ-laden particles hurtling through the air when a fellow passenger has a coughing fit? Air inside an airplane cabin is circulated side to side rather than from the front of the plane to the back, which means you're breathing the same air as the passengers next to you throughout your flight. It's not a big deal out in the wide world of constantly renewing fresh air, but on an airplane you're breathing a mix of fresh air and re-circulated cabin air that gets staler the longer the flight.

As it turns out, however, there's more to worry about than whether the sneezing passenger next to you is contagious. In 2009, an undercover investigation by Swiss and German TV networks found contaminated air was a problem in 28 of 31 samples taken from inside cabins. The studies found high levels of a toxin called tricresyl phosphate, a chemical used in modern jet oil with effects that include everything from drowsiness and headaches to neurological problems.

Air enters airplane cabins through a "bleed air" system whereby hot air is drawn from the compressor area of the engines and then cooled before entering the cabin. There, it mixes with re-circulated air that passes through filters designed to remove bacteria and other infectious particles. If there are engine oil or hydraulic fuel leaks in the engines and the air passing through that area comes into contact with vapors from these chemicals, this may contaminate the air supply inside the plane, since filters cannot remove the toxins. Another noteworthy tidbit -- those long delays when your airplane is parked at the gate or a remote parking spot waiting for takeoff is when the air in the cabin is likely to be the most fetid. Since the engines are turned off during this time, fresh air is not circulating into the cabin as it is during flight.

Fewer checked bags means more sandbags in the cargo hold
Next time the pilot makes an announcement that you're being delayed at the gate while a few extra bags are loaded below, consider what might be being hoisted into the cargo holds instead. Adding sandbags to correct weight and balance in an airplane by providing ballast and redistributing weight has long been a common practice in the airline industry. But ever since the new checked bag fees were introduced on many airlines, with fewer passengers checking bags as a result, there's been an upturn in the need to add ballast before takeoff, particularly on smaller commuter flights that are more sensitive to weight issues.

"The weight balance of the aircraft is set up to where they're usually expecting a certain amount of bags to balance out the plane," explains the captain for a major U.S. airline. "So if we have 50 passengers on board, we expect 50 bags and that offsets the weight of the passengers and balances out the aircraft to give it the right center of gravity for take off.

"But what happens now, with charging so much for bags, is that people carry on so there's a weight balance problem. Because of that we end up carrying sometimes 500 or 600 pounds of sand bags to even us out."

The lavatories are even nastier than you thought
Next time you consider heading into the lavatory in your socks -- or worse, bare feet -- reconsider that move. Quick turnarounds mean there is hardly time for more than a cursory wipe-down of the facilities before the next passengers are invited to board.

In his book The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., put lavatories on commercial jets to the test. He found E. coli contamination everywhere, from the faucets to the doorknobs. And the folks who face onboard bathrooms on a daily basis see them in a similarly unclean light.

"When it comes to lavs, they are just nasty," says our anonymous captain. "They should be serviced and drained after every flight but usually are not. It [cleaning] happens maybe every three or four flights at my airline."

He also reveals that aircraft cabins on his airline are similarly unkempt when it comes to deep cleaning practices.

"Every flight, the trash comes out and each night there's maybe a quick vacuum and lav wipe down but that's about it," he says. "We got a memo recently about planes getting cycled into a deep cleaning every once in a while, but I have no idea how often."

Suggest you board with your hand sanitizer at the ready.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

YouTube stars who made over $100,000

Provided by the Business Insider, August 19, 2010:

There are 10 independent YouTube stars who made over $100,000 in the past year, according to a study done by analytics and advertising company TubeMogul.

From July 2009 to July 2010, TubeMogul used their viewership data to estimate the annual income for independent YouTube partners, which they define as anyone who is not part of a media company or brand.

Here's how they got their estimates:

* Revenue only comes from banner ads served near content (we ignored pre-roll or overlay since we can't easily isolate by publisher).
* Since YouTube banner ads have a two-second load delay, we estimate 2.59% of viewers click away before an ad loads based on separate research.
* Ads were served near all videos that loaded (since there are partners, this is generally true).
* CPM for the banner ads was $1.50 (Google auctions a lot of this inventory off; we rounded this 2009 estimate down to be conservative).
* YouTube is splitting ad revenue with partners 50-50.

Basically, take their views from the past year, assume a few don't stick around long enough for an ad to load, divide that number by 1,000, multiply by $1.50 and divide that number in half.

Conservative estimates? Sure. But with that math, you get a pretty decent estimate of how much these YouTube celebrities are making from just the banner ads on their channel. So, without further ado, here are the highest earning YouTube stars!

1. Shane Dawson – $315,000

Shane Dawson is so popular that he is three different YouTube channels. His most popular channel consists of his comedy skits and music video parodies. Dawson created a second channel as a vlog and for a separate series called "Ask Shane," and his third channel only has videos taken from his iPhone.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 431,787,450

2. The Annoying Orange – $288,000

The Annoying Orange is a comedy web series that takes place in a kitchen and is about talking fruit. Dane Boedigheimer is the mastermind behind the series and is also the voice of Orange.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 349,753,047

3. Philip DeFranco – $181,000

Philip DeFranco uploads a new video onto YouTube every Monday to Thursday for his show – The Philip DeFranco Show. His video blogging topics range from politics to pop culture.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 248,735,032

4. Ryan Higa – $151,000

Ryan Higa makes comedy skits and is a video blogger who turned into a viral star with his "How to be Gangster" and "How to be Ninja" videos. Even though he doesn't upload as many videos as his fellow YouTube celebrities, Higa is still the top dog at YouTube with over 2.6 million subscribers.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 206,979,909

5. Fred – $146,000

Lucas Cruikshank plays "a lonely six year old named Fred" who uses his mom's video camera and posts videos on a YouTube channel. As the second most subscribed to YouTube channel, Lucas Cruikshank's immensely popular Fred character even has a movie coming out backed by Nickelodeon.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 200,656,150

6. Shay Carl – $140,000

As a radio DJ, Shay Carl started making comedy skits and put them on YouTube for the world to see. He claims to have held 20 different jobs before settling down with his DJ and YouTube gigs.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 192,309,247

7. Mediocre Films – $116,000

Greg Benson created Mediocre Films initially for a sketchy comedy TV series called "Skip TV." The show lasted for one season, and now Benson makes low budget comedy videos for the web.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 159,030,703

8. Smosh – $113,000

Smosh is the comedy duo of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, and with over 1.7 million subscribers, they make up the 5th most popular channel on YouTube. They first shot to viral fame with their "Pokemon Theme Music Video" which became YouTube's most viewed video in Spring 2006. However, due to copyright reasons, the original video was removed from YouTube.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 154,936,876

9. The Young Turks – $112,000

The Young Turks is a political talk show that also airs on Sirius Satellite Radio. Founded and hosted by Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks talk show and their vast viewership has proven that the Internet can be a viable broadcast platform.
July 2009 - 2010 Views: 153,807,362

10. Natalie Tran– $101,000

Under the user name of communitychannel, Natalie Tran is the most subscribed to YouTube user in Australia. Like most others on this list, she is a video blogger and occasionally uploads comedy skits.

July 2009 - 2010 Views: 138,871,829

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jobs that earn over 30$ an hour

1. Finance
Career: Loan officer
Average hourly wage: $30.39
Loan officers help people navigate the process of borrowing money for houses, cars, education, and more. Though there are no formal education requirements for loan officers, an associate's degree in finance can help qualify you for these positions, particularly if you want to become a mortgage loan officer.

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Career: Diagnostic medical sonographer
Average hourly wage: $30.60
Sonography is mostly associated with ultrasound technology used to see how babies are developing in utero. An associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography can teach you how to use the medical equipment that directs high-frequency sound waves to diagnose many medical conditions in addition to pregnancy. Job opportunities are expected to grow by 18 percent between 2008 and 2018.

3. Nursing
Career: Registered nurse
Average hourly wage: $31.99
Registered nurses administer medications, monitor patients, assist doctors, provide medical care, and more. To prepare yourself for a career in nursing, you can complete an associate's degree in nursing, which will qualify to take a state licensing exam--a prerequisite to becoming a registered nurse. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of jobs for registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent. Many states are offering grant- and loan-repayment programs for nursing education, and hospitals are also offering signing bonuses to new nurses.

4. Applied Science
Career: Nuclear technician
Average hourly wage: $32.07
Nuclear technicians operate nuclear testing and research equipment and help with research initiatives, and around half of them work for utility companies. An associate's degree in applied science or in nuclear-science technology should qualify you for the job, which will also likely require on-the-job training. This industry is expected to see average growth as nuclear-energy technology develops.

5. Nuclear Medicine Technology
Career: Nuclear-medicine technologist
Average hourly wage: $32.91
Nuclear-medicine technologists use radioactive drugs and special cameras that detect those drugs to diagnose diseases. An associate's degree in nuclear-medicine technology teaches you radiation safety, imaging techniques, and how to use various diagnostic computer applications. Around two-thirds of nuclear-medicine technologists work in hospitals, and the rest work in diagnostic imaging centers, laboratories, and physicians' offices.

6. Fashion Design
Career: Fashion designer
Average hourly wage: $35.78
Fashion designers are responsible for the bad, the good, and the ugly trends. The job requires planning and research skills, as well as being able to make predictions based on the fashion market. Fashion designers are also responsible for envisioning and sketching designs, selecting fabrics and colors, and managing the production of clothing, purses, shoes, sunglasses, and more. An associate's degree in fashion design, artistic talent, and a good eye can qualify you for careers in fashion design.

7. Computer Programming
Career: Computer programmer
Average hourly wage: $35.91
Though computer-programming jobs don't necessarily require formal education, they do require you to know how to create code and have an understanding of programming languages--the specific languages depend on the job. If you need a refresher course or want to learn from scratch, an associate's degree in computer programming, computer science, information systems, or math can qualify you for some computer-programming positions.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Even if we could farm on Mars, astronauts might be too weak by the time they get there to help plow the fields.

The first cellular analysis of muscles from astronauts who have spent 180 days at the International Space Station shows that their muscles lost more than 40 percent of their capacity for physical work, despite in-flight exercise.

No matter how good their shape was before the astronauts left, they returned with muscles tone that resembled that of the average 80-year-old. In fact, the astronauts who were in the best shape before they launched were the most likely to come back with withered, or atrophied, muscles.

NASA currently estimates it would take a crew 10 months to reach Mars, with a one year stay, and 10 months to get back, for a total mission time of about three years. These studies suggest they would barely be able to crawl by the time they got back to Earth with the current exercise regime.

“The lack of load” — pressure on muscles — “is the main problem,” said biologist Robert Fitts of Marquette University. “There is no gravity and so any fibers within those muscles are unloaded. The load normally maintains protein synthesis and the size.” Even with plenty of activity, the lack of load leads to atrophy.

In an August 17 Journal of Physiology study, Fitts’ team tested muscle fibers from calf biopsies of nine astronauts, taken before and after their space station stay. The researchers isolated single muscle strands and tested their ability to generate force and velocity.

On average, astronaut muscle lost 35 percent of its capacity to produce force, and 20 percent of its velocity. Both of these factors contributed to a 45 percent loss in power required for strong, quick motions.

The study is a follow-up to an earlier analysis of muscle size, where the researchers put the loss of muscle volume at 15 percent.

Since that study, scientists have developed what they hope will be a better workout device for space, called the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device, or aRED, which was sent to the ISS last year. The device offers more resistance than the previous workout regimen.

“I know the crew has been using the aRED, but as of now there has been no test to see whether it has been effective,” Fitts said. “Although they’ve been proposing to test it on ground using bedrest studies, those haven’t gotten anywhere. The first way to test these studies would be a well controlled bedrest study.”

Bedrest studies are where study participants spend 90 days in bed, the closest thing scientists have come up with for recreating space like conditions on earth.

Despite the wasting measured in this study, Fitts is optimistic.

“I’m convinced that with the right device we can prevent this wasting in space,” he said

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Credit Score Tips

You're planning on buying a house in a few months and want to do everything possible to raise your credit score before you apply for a mortgage. What are the three most important things you can do today for a higher credit score tomorrow?

That's the question I asked Fair Isaac, the company that created the most popular credit score, the FICO score. And if you're wondering if working toward a higher score is worth the hassle, here's a cut-and-paste from the FICO home page:

A 100 point difference in your FICO score could mean over $40,000 extra in interest payments over the life of a 30 year mortgage on a $300,000 home loan.

So what did Fair Isaac spokesperson Craig Watts suggest? Before making any suggestions, he started with a caveat. There is nothing you can do to change your score overnight. At best, plan on two months, maybe three to see an actual increase — that's why you want to start the polishing process far in advance of any borrowing you intend to do.

Here were his three best tips.

Tip 1: Clean Up Your Credit History

Credit scores are drawn from information in your credit history, so anything that's wrong there will show up here. Go to and pull a free copy of your credit history. Carefully comb through it and check it for mistakes and do what's possible to make it look its best.

Tip 2: Lower Your Utilization Ratio

Visit this page of FICO's website and you can learn all about how credit scores are calculated. One of factors you'll see there is called "Amounts Owed", which comprises about 30% of your credit score. And one of the components of this factor is how much you owe on credit cards vs. your available credit. That's the utilization ratio. As I explained in the video above, you want to keep your utilization ratio below 30%. So if your credit limit is $1,000 on one card, you don't want to owe more than $300 on that card.

Knowing this opens the door to several potential strategies.

• You could lower your utilization ratio by paying down your credit cards: that's the ideal scenario.

• If money's tight, then you could at least shuffle your balances between cards. For example, if you've got one card maxed out and two with small balances, move part of the big balance to each of the other two cards so all three show less than a 30% utilization ratio.

• Lower your utilization ratio by raising your credit limits. In other words, if you owe $1,000 on a card with a $1,000 credit limit, raising that credit limit to $3,000 will bring your utilization ratio back down to 30%. A simple call to the bank might be all you need.

Tip 3: Dust Off an Old Card

If you have an account that you've had for ages but haven't used for ages — and is still open — use it. While still technically open, the card company may no longer be reporting the account to the credit bureaus. Using the card will increase the amount of available credit you show — good for your utilization ratio. More important, the length of your credit history makes up 15% of your credit score. So bringing a very old account back to life could help.

But here are two things not to do. Don't open a new account — that definitely will lower your credit score, at least short-term. And don't close any accounts, since that would negatively impact your utilization ratio.

These are the fast ways to improve your credit score — at least if you consider "fast" to be 60 — 90 days. The simplest and best way to improve your credit score, however, is the slowest: paying your bills on time and allowing any negatives like late payments to gradually fade away over time. At 35%, payment history is the biggest component in your credit score.

One Last Tip

While things like late pays and delinquent accounts should drop off your credit history after 7 years (and the older they are the less impact they have on your score) there is a way to have them removed earlier. Simply ask the company that put negative information on your report to remove it. The process isn't hassle-free, but worth considering, especially if you're planning to borrow for a mortgage or other monster loan a few months from now.

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Six Questions You Should Never Ask at the Interview


Candidates who ask these questions don't remain candidates for long
John Kador, author of "301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview"
What were they thinking? Whenever I talk to human-resources professionals or recruiters, I always ask them to tell me the worst question they were ever asked in a job interview. How could any applicant actually believe questions like these are in his interests?

Unfortunately, job seekers continue to ask dumb questions every day. These questions demonstrate poor judgment and effectively ensure their rejection.

It's hard to generalize about such stunningly bad interview questions, but they all are "me" questions. These are questions that appear to put your needs before those of the employer. The best interview questions focus on what the applicant can do for the company, not what the company can do for applicant.

-- Get ready for your interview. Know what the job pays.

Be certain that the questions you ask don't raise barriers or objections. For example, don't ask, "Is relocation a necessary part of the job?"
The very question raises doubts about your willingness to relocate. Even if the person selected for the position is not tracked for relocation, the negativity of the question makes the hiring manager wonder whether you are resistant in other areas as well.

If the issue of relocation is important to you, by all means ask, but go with a phrasing that reinforces your flexibility, not challenges it. A good approach: "I'm aware that relocation is often required in a career and I am prepared to relocate for the good of the company as necessary. Could you tell me how often I might be asked to relocate in a five- or 10-year period?"
Here are five more bad questions you might be tempted to ask and what hiring managers will think when they hear them:

What you ask: Is job-sharing a possibility?

What they think: Possibly, but does this mean you can't give us a commitment for full-time work?

What you ask: Can you tell me whether you have considered the incredible benefits of telecommuting for this position?

What they think: Why do you want to get out of the office before you have even seen it?

What you ask: I understand that employee paychecks are electronically deposited. Can I get my paycheck in the old-fashioned way?

What they think: You are already asking for exceptions. What's next? And are you afraid of technology?

What you ask: I won't have to work for someone with less education than I have, will I?

What they think: You clearly have a chip on your shoulder. Why should we take a chance that you don't have other interpersonal issues?

What you ask: The job description mentions weekend work. Are you serious?

What they think: We're serious about the job description. We're suddenly less serious about you.

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